A Valley Without Wind Review: A Valley Without Drive

There’s a huge amount to do in A Valley Without Wind — so much, in fact, that at the outset, the side-scrolling platformer is actually a bit daunting. There are bosses to fight! Items to grab! Spells to craft! Dungeons to explore! Settlements to improve! Survivors to save! Boxes to carry! Trees to knock down! Other spells to craft! Other inventory items to carry! Other dungeons to explore!

It’s a strange predicament to be in, because at first, A Valley Without Wind seems overwhelming — there’s too much. Huge dungeons lay before you, settlements need rebuilding, and you’ll need to find and craft better spells in order to best the enemies arrayed in the various depths of the world.

But over time, one comes to realize that A Valley Without Wind actually doesn’t have enough to do, in a sense. Sure, you can spend hours and hours searching for the components you need to better the world around you and advance through the game, but the principal parts of the gameplay — searching through platformy caves and destroyed buildings, fighting off enemies and gathering junk — are fairly repetitive and shallow. While it’s full of cool, big ideas, A Valley Without Wind struggles to maintain the player’s drive to play. There’s just not much going on minute to minute, except the unending grind.

A Valley Without Wind: PC (reviewed)
Developer: Arcen Games
Publisher: Arcen Games
Released: April 24, 2012
MSRP: $14.99

It’s after the end of the world in A Valley Without Wind’s really thin story offering, and the world has been splintered. The future coexists with the past in these locations, and there are very few places that people can live. Only special, magical folks called Glyphbearers can venture out into the world, where they scavenge for the raw materials to build up the settlements of the last remaining humans. Eventually, those glyphbearers buy it, and someone else bears their glyphs, heading out unendingly to clear dungeons and find important crap.

What that means in practice is that you venture out into the world and start delving into dungeons. A Valley Without Wind lets you go anywhere, randomly generating the world around you and letting you mess around in it. What’s cool is that the game combines a number of great mechanics solidly together; the randomly generated world means you can play A Valley Without Wind effectively forever, and the elements you find along the way can be used to craft new spells, your chief mechanic. There are tons of spells — some that are close-range, other long range; some with elemental bonuses; some that make moving easier or faster; some that change you into animals.

There really is a lot of content on offer in A Valley Without Wind, which is one of its biggest strengths. Venturing into the game world puts you up against opponents you can’t beat, for example, and forces you to double back and adventure elsewhere until you can create a tool that will let you proceed. Most of the game feels a lot like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, populating its world with a lot of side-scrolling platforming to get around, and tons of vertical exploration. I’m hesitant to call it a member of the “Metroidvania” genre, however, because it lacks some fundamental elements of those games — like a plan behind all that exploration.

A Valley Without Wind’s chief trouble is that it’s sprawling. Dungeons go on forever. Even smaller outbuildings are suitably massive. And this is a game that defies you to explore every inch of all of them. Sometimes you’ll find missions, both known and secret, that put you on to a specific objective and give a specific reward. Other times, however, you’re just finding yourself diving into a cave, seeing how far it goes and what’s inside it.

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